Many times, when I’m discussing a project with a potential client, the question of where my office is located comes up. This strikes me as interesting, even puzzling, because so much of the work I’ve done has been remote and involving clients and team members in different countries, I rarely even think about geographic location anymore.
But it’s obviously still important to a lot of people, to the point that I’ve even lost projects to less qualified developers simply because they work in the same city as the client.
So let’s talk about it for a moment:
What are the benefits of working with a local developer?
If you hire a custom software developer or development firm that’s located near you geographically, you have the opportunity to meet with them face-to-face fairly easily.
You can discuss the intricacies of the project over a conference table or over a cup of coffee at a local Starbuck’s if you want to. And, if the project requires it, you can give the developer a thorough, in-depth look at your company, your facilities, your business processes, and everything else he or she needs to learn in order to accomplish their task.
Plus, if and when you need to talk or get together again as the project progresses, you probably don’t have to worry about coordinating time zones, which just makes things that much more convenient.
All valid points, and I can understand why they appeal to so many business people.
But I have to ask: does any of it really matter in 2017?
Technology bridges geography
These days, technology has essentially made physical distance a null issue in 99% of business transactions, including the development of custom software.
Between the ubiquitous nature of mobile phones (most of which, in the United States, are smartphones capable of nearly any form of digital communication,) the prevalence of high speed internet connections, and the fact that web-based communication systems are often free or very inexpensive, the tools needed to do business – anywhere in the world with anyone at any time – are available to nearly everyone.
While as recently as 15 years ago it was still expensive and inconvenient to arrange meetings across time zones and to reliably host conference and video calls, those barriers have essentially disappeared with services like Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, and the like.
Cloud services like DropBox and Google Docs have made file sharing and collaboration – even in real time – inexpensive and reliable. Project management, billing, code storage, and every other aspect of the business relationship has its own cloud-based apps that make it possible for developers and clients who are thousands of miles apart to carry out business seamlessly at any time of the day or night.
What do you sacrifice by insisting on a local developer?
Although I can understand the psychological comfort factor that goes with being able to meet a vendor face-to-face and shake hands over a physical, signed contract, there are some definite costs involved with insisting on that scenario – both financial and otherwise.
To begin with, if you insist on hiring a local developer, you’re going to pay a premium price if you’re in an area with a higher cost of living. For instance, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco… if your company is located in a large city where cost of living is high, you can expect to pay 40-50% more to a local development firm for the exact same skills you’ll get from a developer who works somewhere else where the costs aren’t so high.
Limiting your selection to those developers who are within a certain radius of your office also necessarily limits the skill sets you can choose from. And while it’s important to narrow down your list of potential developers, the criteria you use should be based on who’s going to do the best job on your project, not who’s closest to you.
The most important factor in choosing a custom software developer
Without a doubt, the quality of a their work should be the most important factor when choosing which developer or development team is going to help you with a given project. The developer’s experience doing the kind of work you need and their portfolio of satisfied clients should be right up there in the top criteria as well.
Where they happen to live or work really doesn’t need to be on the list at all, but if it is, it should be way down near the bottom.
Here’s my personal experience after many successful years as a custom software developer:
I have several clients right now for whom I’ve done tens of thousands of dollars of development work over five or more years, and whom I’ve never met face-to-face. We’ve probably spoken over a thousand times on the phone and via video chat, and I like to think we have a very close, trusting business relationship built on mutual respect. Most importantly, they love my work and know I’m going to do a great job on every project they hand me.
That seems more important to me than the fact that our offices are hundreds of miles apart. Contact us at 919 689 6022 to discuss your project with Brett.